SpaceX, along with Spaceflight Inc and depot start-up OrbitFab has revealed via a press release that the first orbit propellant depot will be shot into space relatively soon.
OrbitFab announced the news via a press release that details the development of a propellant tanker dubbed "Tanker-002" and how and why it will be the first propellant tanker to reach geostationary orbit. The tanker uses OrbitFab's "robust RAFTI (Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface) system" that was designed to refuel US Department of Defense and Intelligence Community assets in geostationary orbit. Tanker-002, along with Spaceflight's Sherpa-ES orbital transfer vehicle, will go around the back of the Moon to gain a gravitational assist.
For those that don't know what geostationary orbit is - it's when an object is stationed 22,236 miles in altitude and orbits Earth at the same speed Earth rotates. If an object is in geostationary orbit, its orbital period will be the same as Earth's single-day period - 23 hours and 56 minutes. It should also be noted that if an object, or in this instance Tanker-002, is in geostationary orbit, an observer on Earth would see the object remain stationary in the sky.
As for Tanker-002, Daniel Faber, CEO of OrbitFab, said, "Our robust RAFTI [the Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface] system was designed to refuel large US Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, and commercial assets in geostationary orbit, so commencing operations in this orbit will be an important milestone for us. This GEO tanker will have the capability to store propellant for up to 15 years, though of course we provide the fuel that satellites need, where and when they need it."
James Bultitude, Orbit Fab's Chief Engineer, added, "This is the first tanker in this orbit, and Spaceflight has come up with a new way to get us there efficiently. Hydrazine fuel will be available for delivery as soon as it arrives, though we intend to take some time to demonstrate our long-term storage technology. When it's not making a fuel delivery, we will be parking our tanker a few hundred kilometers away from the geostationary belt so as not to clutter up the orbit."
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